Years ago, I was an elementary and junior high school counselor in a small town in New Hampshire. Fresh out of the Air Force, and graduate Counseling Degree in hand, I was ready to take on the world. Kelvin, the elementary principal, was a kind man who “believed” in counseling. He gave me a nice office where I set up shop to shrink heads of little troubled souls and misfits. In short order I realized that one on one sessions with second graders was not the most effective use of my time. I remember one of my professors advocating for “giving away” school counseling by working with the teachers directly in the classroom and the parents of the students. I gave that a whirl by introducing “affective education” modules to the teachers and organizing parent groups. In retrospect I believe the results were marginally successful. Anyway, the feedback from the teacher’s lounge, which every educator knows is the heartbeat of a school, was generally positive. It was where one day Don, a fourth-grade teacher, announced that he was getting a divorce and marrying Linda, a first-grade teacher, and he was announcing this in the open to quash any vicious future rumors. But that’s another story.
One day, about a week into my tenure, Kelvin told me it was time to go up to the junior high. I told him I was looking forward to it. On the ride up he warned me that Greg, the junior high principal was “different” from him, which was to foretell that Greg might not welcome me with open arms. Greg was a bull of a man, and also happened to moonlight as the chief of police in the small town. When I asked him some inane question like: “What are your needs for school counseling?” his answer was telling: “The only thing you can do about some of these little bastards is to hit them between the eyes with a two by four!” Oh, I see. While this took me back it also motivated me to demonstrate my worth to him. I asked to see my office and he showed me a janitor’s closet in the basement next to the band room. It had block walls and two folding chairs. From time to time the band would practice in the next room, making it difficult to maintain a therapeutic environment in my closet when counseling a student.
About the third week in I believe Greg decided to test me by referring and 8th grade bully named Jamie, who was on the verge of expulsion for fighting and generally being a jerk. We went into my closet, he talked, I listened and used my counseling skills, and after a while he settled down. In the junior high teacher’s lounge, some of the teachers commented that Jamie had mellowed, and gave me credit. Whoopie! And I didn’t even have to hit him between the eyes with a two by four! I think Greg was impressed but didn’t say so. His ace in the hole was referring a student named Buddy, son of a wealthy executive who liked to sail. Buddy was the opposite of Jamie—mild and withdrawn. I’m not sure what his psychological diagnosis would have been, but let’s just say he was weird. I suppose my mission was to de-weird him, something for which I was not successful. All I remember these years later was his incessant talk about sailing and how he hated mosquitoes. I don’t think I affected any change, but I do think that Greg won some brownie points by telling his old man that the new counselor was shrinking his head.
Now on to the present-day point of the story. Greg would dominate the halls of the school by marching up and down them yelling at the kids, threatening them with saying: “I’ll show you!” Which, I take it, meant he would keep them after school and show them who was boss. Upon reflection, I’ve decided that Greg was a graduate of the college of “I’ll Show U”, which taught domination and authoritarian power over underlings as a lifestyle. This mantra fit perfectly with his night job as the chief of police—I think the only officer in town—and I speculate that he was just as much of a bull when he pulled someone over. I’m not sure what he would have done if the person were black, because I never saw any black people in town.
I’m not saying all cops are graduates from I’ll Show U, but I’m afraid some are, particularly when it comes to interactions with minorities or by dealing with someone resisting arrest. Given the current atmosphere of protest over the murder of a black man by a Minneapolis cop, and the fleeing of a black man from the Atlanta police who shot him in the back, I think there are some in uniform who are graduates from I’ll Show U, and proceed accordingly. My take is they must be shown a different way or shown the door. And yes, we need more mental health and school counselors—not to de-weird people, but to calm things down.